The human voice is a marvellous instrument and, like any other instrument, it requires constant and loving maintenance to work at its best. Failing to take good care of your voice will result in a below par performance and potentially long term damage. Follow our Top 10 Vocal Health Tips to keep your voice in tip-top shape.
Posted on: October 25, 2016 By: Max Bonanno
Vocal Health Tip #1. Make vocal warm-ups a habit
You wouldn’t go for a run without warming-up and stretching your legs, would you? The fact is that if you skip your warm-up you increase your chances of getting injured. The same applies to singing, without a proper warm-up you expose your voice to unnecessary strain. And that makes singing harder and may lead to vocal health issues in the long run. Ideally, you should warm-up in the morning, before you start to talk. 2 of my favorite exercises are the major scale and the vocal sirens. Both exercises are great to get your voice ready to sing, even when you’re short of time.
Vocal Health Tip #2. Master the diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing for singing is much easier than you might think. It can be helpful to know that the diaphragm is a thin, dome-shaped muscle that separates your lungs from your abdominal cavity. If you place your fingers under your last rib, you get a pretty good idea about where your diaphragm sits. Keeping your fingers there can help you focus on the area of your body that needs to expand the most while you breathe. All you have to do is to expand out when you breathe in, pushing your fingers away from you, and come back to the start position when you breathe out. You can practice in front of a mirror from time to time, to make sure your posture is correct and that your shoulders and chest are relaxed all the time.
The breathing technique is really the foundation for everything else you’ll learn as a singer. Make sure yours is solid and you’ll benefit from a greater control of your voice, a richer tone and more versatility.
Vocal Health Tip #3. Keep hydrated
Drink plenty of water to keep your body well hydrated. Avoid drinks such as alcohol and caffeine, which have a dehydrating effect on your vocal chords. Also, an excellent way to keep your vocal chords hydrated is by inhaling the steam. Just fill up a bowl with boiling water, put a towel over your head and breathe. Easy and quick, this is actually an excellent method to hydrate your vocal chords directly and it’s also great to get rid of any excess of mucous off them.
Vocal Health Tip #4. Feed your body properly for a better, healthier voice
Eating and drinking well is very important for singers. As a general rule, some food and drinks should be avoided, because of the dehydrating, irritating or mucous building effect they might have on the vocal chords. A non-exhaustive list of food and drinks singers should avoid include coffee, alcoholic and ice-cold beverages, chocolate, sweets, dairy products and milk in particular. At the same time, singers should eat a variegated diet and consume plenty of vitamin C-rich food, to boost their body’s immune system and increase their chances to resist to mild illnesses such as common colds, flu or fever.
Vocal Health Tip #5. Rest your voice and sleep well
The human voice is a very sensitive instrument and as such needs plenty of “good-quality” sleep to function at its best. How much is plenty varies from individual to individual. However, it’s worth considering that lack of sleep is often described as one of the most detrimental factors for the singing voice. Make sure you wake up rested and energized, your voice will appreciate it!
Also, if you use your voice professionally, try to rest it properly whenever you get the chance.
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Vocal Health Tip #6. Lead an active lifestyle to perform better
Keeping your body in great shape isn’t only useful if you’re planning to grace the front cover of a Music Magazine. It is good for you in general and will also help you deliver a better performance, especially when that involves moving a lot on stage. A fit body will be a lot more resistant to all those mild illnesses that can compromise your voice, such as cold and flu. Moreover, it is advisable to include a little physical activity at the start of your warm-up routine: a couple of minutes of jogging on the spot, and some neck, shoulders and back stretches will help you release some tension from your body, improve your posture and get you ready to practise or perform at your best.
Vocal Health Tip #7. Don’t Smoke
Smoke is bad for your health, no big news here. Even more so for singers. Smoking increases the risk of throat and lungs cancer massively, and inhaling smoke, either actively or second-hand will dehydrate and irritate the vocal cords. Not worth it!
Vocal Health Tip #8. Respect your voice, don’t abuse it
Talking in noisy areas isn’t advisable, as you likely end up screaming to get heard above the noise. As a proof, it is pretty common to wake up with a hoarse voice after a night out. Try to avoid such situations and any other circumstances in which your voice is put under unnecessary strain. Whenever you’re performing, make sure a proper monitoring system is in place and that you’re able to hear yourself properly at all times. Failing to hear yourself while singing can lead to vocal strain and most likely to pitch issues. Also, refrain from clearing your voice too often, as that’s pretty stressful for your vocal chords. Instead, keep hydrated or try with a few vocal sirens to clear your vocal chords from the mucus you’re trying to get rid of.
Vocal Health Tip #9. Listen to your body if you feel unwell
There are situations in which using the right vocal and breathing techniques can really help you get around a minor cold or flu. However, when swallowing becomes uncomfortable or even worse painful, you’ve most likely picked up a vocal infection. If that’s the case, you must rest your voice and look after it until you’re 100% healed or you’ll do more damage than good.
Vocal Health Tip #10. Plan your sessions and work smart for faster results
Practice makes perfect, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard that before. And it’s even more beneficial when you get to practise on a regular basis. Let’s say you only have 2 hours per week to practise, plan 6 x 20-minute sessions daily, or 3 x 40-minute sessions, one every other day. This will ensure continuous progress at a much faster pace than if you were doing all your practice in one go. Another smart trick to speed up your progress is to record yourself. You won’t need fancy recording equipment, a smartphone will do. Recording your voice when you practise or perform will give you the chance to listen back to what you’ve sung, spot potential issues such as pitch accuracy, lack of breathing control, vocal strain etc., and act promptly to sort them out.
I hope you’ll find my Top 10 Tips beneficial and that your singing will improve as a result. And if you have other tips that work for you, feel free to share them with us